Focus of the Month: January 2020

That was then, this is now. Honoring the Past, Living in the Present, and Planting Seeds for the Future. A Reflection on Time.

written by Camilah Hicks

“There are only two days in the year when nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow. Today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly, live.”
– Dalai Lama

Yoga Sutra 1.1: Atha Yoganusasanam –
Atha = Now;
Yoga = Union;
Anusasanam = exposition or instruction
Now Yoga Instruction.
There are many translations of this sutra. Sri Swami Satchidananda says, “Now the exposition of Yoga is being made.” Dennis Hill says simply, “Now, Yoga.” Perhaps my favorite translation, however, is by Nischala Joy Devi: “With humility (an open heart and mind), we embrace the sacred study of Yoga.” It is this translation that informs our focus.

Time is relative. We either feel like we never have enough to accomplish all the things that need to be done, feel like we have too much on our hands and are dying of boredom, or that it has gotten away from us. It seems that we’re constantly negotiating with ourselves and others to navigate this most elusive of ideas. Time is an illusory concept upon which we’ve created systems of meaning that we’ve determined to be significant in order to keep things flowing and in motion. Class starts at 6. You can vote at 18. Expiration dates on everything. Physicists have said that time is simply a way for us to distinguish between what was the past and what is now. Time, then, is a social construct with which we are all somehow in cahoots. What then, does “That was then, this is now. Honoring the Past, Living in the Present, and Planting Seeds for the Future” mean?

We have just entered into a new year, a brand-new decade. At the close of the previous year, we are invited to reflect on what was and to dream of all that will be. This year, the hashtag #2020vision trended. Through all of this looking back, and calls to dream of and plan for the future, we are almost never encouraged to be in the NOW, in the present. To be happy, content, and satisfied with what is. What good is #2020vision if we never take the time to fully live and experience what we’ve learned?

“Mere philosophy will not satisfy us. We cannot reach the goal by mere words alone. Without practice, nothing can be achieved.” – Sri Swami Satchidananda

I’ve never really enjoyed New Year’s Eve. It has always felt like a forced celebration to me. There were years that I did the party thing, because I thought that’s what a cool, of- the-moment person did, but it never brought me joy. For the past few years, though, I finally gave in to the melancholy that I usually feel on New Year’s Eve, and instead of the big party, I’ve created my vision board for the new year, focusing on what I’d like to manifest for the upcoming year. Themes like love, abundance, freedom, and, creativity showed up year after year.

Not this year though. This year, I’ve decided, is the year of NOW; to live so fully in the present, that there won’t be room for anything else. The parties, the vision boards, that was then, this is now. I wholly honor the Past, but intend to Live fully in the Present, and in so doing, I will be planting seeds for the Future.

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Memories are simply reflections on time. We all have memories, recollections of the past that shaped and formed us into who and what we are now. And that’s just it. The memories only exist because we’re in the Now. We only have these records of the past Now. British physicist Julian Barbour describes everything, as a series of “nows.” This series of nows are your invitation.

Practice Atha, being in the Now, on and off the mat by bringing attention and presence to everything you do. By approaching the beings and activities in our lives with humility and an open heart and mind, we are able to soften into and embrace the primacy of the present. Center yourselves in the here and now by meditating, by doing a full body scan, starting at your feet and moving all the way to the crown of your head. Practice 3-part yogic breath, and Nadi Shodhana to encourage balance and equilibrium. Tune into the rise and fall of your belly as you inhale and exhale. Give yourself permission to reach and expand in Ardha Chandrasana and soar in Garudasana. Notice the pressure on your body as it connects to the ground beneath you in Tadasana, Paschimottonasana, and Savasana. Bow to what is, and welcome what is on the way in Pranam Virabhadrasana.

Atha is a wonderfully transformative invitation back into the present, back into the wisdom of ourselves, back into NOW. Sutra 1.1 tells us that it is always the right time to be in the practice of yoga, to find ourselves joined, yoked, and united. It refocuses our attention back on the here and now, reminding us that yoga and life only happen in the now.

Life requires us to navigate the tension between the foundation of the past, the dynamism of change, and our hopes for the future, but Yoga teaches us that with generosity and humility to ourselves and others, we are able to see that that was then, this is now. Honoring the Past, Living in the Present, and Planting Seeds for the Future is possible through the practice that connects us, through yoga.


Teacher Tools:

Asana for Practice on the Mat:
• Utthita Trikonasana
• Ardha Chandrasana
• Pranam Virabhadrasana
• Garudasana
• Paschimottonasana – East meets West pose
• Purvottanasana – Intense eastward facing stretch
• Savasana

• 3-part Yogic breathing
• Box Breathing
• Nadi Shodhana

• Asato ma sad-gamaya tamaso my jyotir gamaya mrtyor ma amritham gamaya
Lead me from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality
• Om Gam Ganapataye Namah
Invocation to Ganesha, remover of all obstacles, his blessings are essential for new beginnings
• Om Tare Tutare Ture Soha
Oh Goddess Tara, deliver us from suffering by teaching us to let go of that which is restricting us from freedom

Additional quotes for dharma talks:
• “What you are is what you have been, what you will be is what you do now” – The Buddha
• “It seemed to travel with her, to sweep her aloft in the power of song, so that she was moving in glory among the stars, and for a moment she, too, felt that the words Darkness and Light had no meaning, and only this melody was real.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
• “Don’t watch the clock. Do what it does and keep going” – Sam Levenson
• “Everybody wants to get enlightened, but nobody wants to change.” – Andrew Cohen
• “If not now, when? If not you, who?” – Hillel the Elder
• “There is no time like the present”
• “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” – Dr. Seuss

Songs for Playlists:
• Past Present Future – Oliver Tank
• Fly Like an Eagle – Steve Miller Band
• Time after Time – Cyndi Lauper
• Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce
• Time Has Come Today – The Chambers Brothers
• Time – Pink Floyd
• Time (Clock of the Heart) – Culture Club
• Yesterday – The Beetles
• What are you Waiting For? – Gwen Stefani
• Broken Clocks – SZA
• Right Place Wrong Time – Dr. John
• The First Time – U2

Poem for your enjoyment:

The Chambered Nautilus
–Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main, —
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed, —
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings: —

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

January 2020